US road trip diary: Day Two – At the (flooded) crossroads

crossroadsAfter last night’s shenanigans with the Old Bill, today was going to be more Walt Whitman than Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady, so I went to search for nature, not danger.

Back through Arkansas, no choice, last night’s life-changer, so onwards to Hot Springs to, well (boom-boom), jump in a hot spring.

Different, boring, a town built by the Mafia in the 1920s, all glitz and bling and natural hot water. The Boston Red Sox used to train there, gone to seed, but the only US national park that runs through a town, and the smallest one in America.

Disappointed, Spring Break, town full, got back on the road to Memphis, decided to change plans and go to Clarksville, Mississippi, the place where Bessie Smith died in 1927, went the very scenic route, crossed the mighty, engorged Mississippi river (never seen it before) and headed for the alleged home of the Blues, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for music at the crossroads, only to die aged 19.

A town called Clarksville, flooded not by the Mississippi expanded, but the worst rain-storm in 140 years.

Arrived, expected schmaltz, but found glory, a town of benign, crazy people like that book about Savannah, Midnight in the House of Good and Evil or something like that.

Expected tourist New Orleans, but went to a renovated open air cinema, the Roxy where Ike Turner was a cashier and Sam Cooke played between movies. Unbelievable, if in Shoreditch, a $10 million project. Twelve people at the bar.


Outside stage, at the back of the juke joint (American for shebeen), heard stories about Clarksville and Sam Cooke who was born there, asked where I could buy cigartettes, told the local grocery had closed a week before because the owner had been shot.

Then went to Red’s, a blues bar where Robert Plant and Keith Richard came, but never played. There were 30 people there and the band was amazing.

Clarksville is one of the fifth poorest boroughs in America, all 300 kids (95% black) failed the national algebra test, automation destroyed industry in 1970s, but people are coming back, population up to 20,000 now, up from 18,000 two years ago.

Like Hackney before Hackney was even Hackney, the King of Foreclosures, a three-bedroom mansion downtown costs $60,000. It was one of the best nights of my music life, and I was almost crying with happiness watching proper legacy, fucked-up blues.

I’m not bothering with New Orleans on this trip now, I would only compare it with the magic of Clarksville, ripe for hipsters, perfect for students of the blues.

Might pop into Graceland tomorrow on the way to rest up for some time writing in the Smoky Mountains in Tennesse, but today was as much Moriarty/Cassady as it was Whitman, but it also had Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and the delta Blues I thought were now homogenised. It was a truly magical place, Clarksville, I implore you to go there.

I’m so privileged to have been there at this time, it will soar from here, mark my motherfucking, happy, happy, happy words.

Is Reykjavik the smartest city in Europe?

The City of Reykjavik will be the first city in Europe to use the Social Progress Index to map and improve the wellbeing of all its residents

ReykjavikThe Social Progress Index is a flexible tool that uses specific indicators to measure social and environmental outcomes—such as shelter, health, lifespan, and education—and serves as a complementary measure to traditional economic measures such as employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It has been used to map social performance in a variety of places, including 161 countries at the national level, the entire European Union at the NUTS2 level, cantons in Costa Rica, municipalities in Brazil and cities in Colombia.

“Iceland is already a leading country in the world on social progress, and we’re used to thinking that life is pretty good in Reykjavik.This new effort to map what is and is not working for people in different parts of our city will allow us to make sure that there is a chance for all residents to enjoy social progress,” said Dagur Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik.

Creation of the new index for Reykjavik will include identifying local organizations across government, business, civil society, and academia to support research, use local understanding of Reykjavik’s unique characteristics to choose appropriate indicators, and commit to building on that new understanding to improve social progress across the city.

The Index’s methodology allows communities to use indicators that make sense in their local context, including those that directly impact government policy and areas where local businesses and civil society can better engage in activities that promote the health and wellness of its citizens.

The Social Progress Index for Reykjavik will be the first city-level use of the tool in Europe. The Social Progress Index has previously been used to examine social progress in different parts of the city of Bogota and Rio de Janeiro.

Its mission is to improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the poorest, by fostering research and knowledge-sharing on social progress and equipping leaders in business, government and civil society with new tools to guide policies and programs.

ConnectID address book ready to usurp LinkedIn

A new real-time business social network is set to shake up the jaded LinkedIn model

ConnectID‘The last thing you should have to worry about is maintaining somebody else’s contact details’.

This is the mantra and mission statement from London-based company ConnectID, which has released a real-time social network on Android and the iOS, promising instant contact updates to those who sign up.

The company officially launched in December 2015 and it wants to transform the world’s contact information and change our behaviour for how we access and share contact details. Think of those physical business cards on your desk … imagine them being automatically updated as soon as you touch them.

The Founder of the company is Tassos Papantoniou, a yachtbroker who has experience of how long it takes to find the right yacht for a person and his concomitant network. His Co-Founder, Alison Wightman was Head of Digital at Virgin Atlantic for eight years and is passionate about what the network offers both consumers and businesses.

“We want to organise the world’s contact information and change how we all share and update contacts. Our patented technology will keep an address book up to date and backed up simply by joining the service,” she says.

The company is also being innovative in other ways and has applied to pitch to Richard Branson as part of Virgin’s #VOOM competition and if it gets through this round it could be part of a Guiness world book of records Pitchathon attempt, which would be pretty cool in itself.

ConnectID is one of those simple ideas that look more obvious the longer you think about it. After some serious road-testing, the app is durable, useful and saves a lot of time. I’m going to vote for it in the #VOOm competition, I suggest many of you should do the same.

How to restrict in-app purchases on Apple devices

It is very simple to turn off in-app purchases on Apple devices, here’s how.


Every parent’s nightmare is the one where the mobile operator bill arrives and the kids have been spending thousands of Pounds/Euros/Dollars on in-app purchases.

As is its wont and in its interest, Apple’s default setting is for these purchases to be allowed. So, it takes about 30 seconds to stop this being a nightmare and a dream where everybody can spell at night. This is how you do it:

* On the iOS device, open the Settings screen. Tap General, and then tap Restrictions.

* Tap the option to Enable Restrictions. Enter and then re-enter a Restrictions passcode.

* By default, all of the apps and services are allowed. To disallow in-app purchases, tap on its button.

* From this point, all in-app purchases are disallowed and will only be activated if No Restrictions are reapplied

So now you know… all contributions to my entertainment budget gratefully received now that I’ve saved you all thousands of Pounds/Euros/Dollars.

25% of young UK people happy to date a robot

Tech Me Out: a new survey says a quarter of young people would happily date a robot


The future looks as if it’s going to be weird. A new report to mark from ComRes research to the launch of FutureFest 2016 says that 26% of young people (aged 18-34) in the UK said that they would happily date a robot – provided their android partner looked just like a real-life human being.

There may be more digital shocks in store. One third (34%) of people in the UK say they would be microchipped at work if their privacy was 100% guaranteed, but more than half (62%) say that they would not swap an analogue meal for a digital pill.

Moreover, 50% of Brits who already use contactless bank cards say that they would be happy to have microchips implanted under their skin to open doors or log on at work, and a third (32%) of all British adults believe that in 50 years’ time the sale of fizzy drinks to under-16s will be as tightly controlled as tobacco is today.

Such research naturally has an agenda when promoting a conference that will discuss the future, but the Generation Gap is likely to become much wider as the proliferation of robots

“As humans, we are all born with our own in-built crystal ball about the future. It’s in our nature to have dreams and schemes about better and more exciting worlds to come. We’re exploring playful, emotional and working futures – using world-class speakers, new commissions and installations, and a range of opportunities for our super-smart audiences,” said Pat Kane, Curator of the Play theme at this year’s event.

Since its inaugural event in 2013, FutureFest has hosted Dame Vivienne Westwood in conversation with Edward Snowden, legendary funk musician George Clinton, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, author Jon Ronson, social entrepreneur and model Lily Cole, amongs others.

I, meanwhile, have yet to receive my speaking invitation. Still, they can always use a robot, nobody would be able to tell.